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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-03-24

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Wednesday, 24 March 2010 Issue No: 345



  • [01] FinMin at IHT conference: Greece will solve its economy's problem itself
  • [02] Droutsas: Greece following policy of open horizons
  • [03] PM: Tax bill a big reform and revolutionary change
  • [04] Samaras: Greece not in danger of bankruptcy
  • [05] Samaras to address EPP session in Brussels
  • [06] SYRIZA's Tsipras on tax bill
  • [07] Alternate FM briefs EU counterparts on economy, FRONTEX patrols
  • [08] Turkish corvette sailing between Falkonera and Antimilos
  • [09] Church of Greece hierarchy to meet over tax issue
  • [10] Olli Rehn spokesman on possible aid apparatus to Greece
  • [11] ND proposals for social security system
  • [12] Reppas on development of Crete
  • [13] EBEA Chairman Mihalos addressed IHT conference
  • [14] LAOS' Karatzaferis met with EBEA, BEA chambers
  • [15] INKA sharply criticises higher taxes on goods, fuel
  • [16] Bank of Greece reports slightly higher 2009 results
  • [17] Aegean Airlines reports lower 2009 results
  • [18] Alapis group reports improved 2009 results
  • [19] ATEbank reports 401.6-mln-euro loss in 2009
  • [20] Eurobank Properties to pay 0.55-euro dividend
  • [21] Kri-Kri SA reports higher 2009 results
  • [22] Hotel chamber: Tourist arrivals to remain at last year's levels
  • [23] Stocks end 1.83% higher
  • [24] Greek bond market closing report
  • [25] ADEX closing report
  • [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday
  • [27] Melina Mercouri award for cultural capitals of Europe
  • [28] City of Athens to join 'Earth Hour' campaign
  • [29] Costume exhibition opens at Benaki Museum
  • [30] The riparian forest of Apollonia
  • [31] Book presentation at Istanbul Archaeological Museum
  • [32] Illegal migrant arrests, contraband cigarettes seized in NW Greece
  • [33] Three charged for Internet scam
  • [34] Suspension of building permits around Plato's Academy area in Athens
  • [35] RAF plane crashes on Crete, pilot safe
  • [36] Small plane makes emergency landing
  • [37] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday
  • [38] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
  • [39] FM discusses Cyprus issue with EU High Representative
  • [40] Archbishop's visit to occupied monastery to signal start of restoration work

  • [01] FinMin at IHT conference: Greece will solve its economy's problem itself

    Greece has not asked for money from anyone, and will tackle the problem of its economy on its own, finance minister George Papaconstantinou reiterated on Tuesday, addressing an International Herald Tribune (IHT) international business conference in Athens titled "Greece at the Crossroads: Will reforms bring competitiveness and Investments?

    "We are not looking for a 'deus ex machina'. We know that the best guarantee is strict adherence to our Stability and Development Program (SDP) which consolidates confidence among our citizens, our partners, the EU, and also the international markets," Papaconstantinou stressed.

    On Greek state borrowing, the minister said that Greece is totally capable of continuing to satisfy its borrowing needs and borrow on the international markets. So long as the country remains firm on the target set out in the SDP and that mandate it received, as the new government, to change things, so will the Greek government bond spreads recede.

    To a question on the imminent two-day EU summit that opens Thursday in Brussels, Papaconstantinou stressed that in no instance is Greece going to the Summit as a supplicant. "The problem of our economy is our country's problem, and we will tackle it ourselves," he noted.

    That which is being discussed, and needs to be implemented, is that, for the countries that are doing what they should do, there needs to be a political mechanism that supports their efforts, the minister continued.

    He added that it was very positive that all of the institutional bodies of the EU acknowledge Greece's efforts and, based on those efforts, Greece anticipates a positive outcome from the EU Summit.

    Papaconstantinou was emphatic that the SDP target of reducing the country's deficit from the current 12.7 percentage points of GDP to below 3 percent over the next three years will be achieved. "It will be an unprecedented reduction, which no other country has ever seen," he said.

    On the prospect of negative growth rates that may exceed the government's forecasts, Papaconstantinou explained that such a prospect has been accounted for in the government's "worst-case scenario".

    On the new tax bill, which will be tabled in parliament on Wednesday and is slated for vote in the coming weeks, Papaconstantinou said that the draft law introduces an overhaul of the taxation system in Greece with deep changes, creates a network for curbing tax evasion, and a fairer distribution of the tax burden.

    Papaconstantinou further expressed optimism on the course of state revenues and reduction of expenditure. Indicatively, citing figures for the first two months of the year in comparison with the corresponding period of 2008, he noted that state revenues were up 13 percent while expenditures were down 10 percent.

    [02] Droutsas: Greece following policy of open horizons

    With initiatives and a foreign policy of open horizons, Greece was returning to the centre of international developments with its credibility restored, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said on Tuesday at an international business conference entitled "Greece at the Crossroads: Will reforms bring competitiveness and Investments?" organised by the International Herald Tribune.

    "We are exercising a foreign policy of open horizons, we have interests in the broader region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, we are present when it comes to tackling the great issues that concern humanity, such as climate change, fighting terrorism and energy security," Droutsas told the conference.

    Among others, he pointed out, Greece would soon take over the presidency of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation pact and was currently chairing the Contact Group on Piracy off the Somalia coast.

    As a part of this policy of initiatives, Droutsas highlighted both the meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia premier Nikola Gruevski two days earlier in Brussels, as well as his own upcoming visit to Turkey on March 30.

    Droutsas stressed that foreign policy could not be run like a "battle from the trenches" in which one was an helpless observer, noting that Greece had interests to defend in the Balkans, Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean.

    He pointed to initiatives like the 'Agenda 2014' for the Balkans, saying that this was follow-up to the 2003 Thessaloniki Agenda that had given the "kiss of life" to discussion on the accession of SE Europe to the EU and might eventually take the form of a road map with specific landmarks.

    Referring to the name dispute with FYROM, he said Greece hoped for a mutually acceptable solution with FYROM followed by the start of accession negotiations with the EU. The minister emphasised the initiatives taken by Athens toward this end through the political contacts it had made, always under the aegis of the United Nations, in order to improve the climate and help dispel the other side's distrust.

    "There will be another meeting initiated by us in Brussels on Thursday, on the level of the prime ministers," he announced.

    He also sent a message of sincerity to Skopje, stressing that Greece could become "the most valuable supporter of the neighbouring country's European course. We are seeking a name with a geographic determinant for use with all sides, a solution that will reflect the reality, will not leave any loose ends nor the sense that one party or the other is being wronged," he added, underlining that Greece's initiative for the western Balkans was sincere and should not be doubted.

    Droutsas went on to stress Greece's sincerity toward neighbouring Turkey, as well, and of Athens' support for Turkey's European prospects, while adding that this was based on principles, values and did not allow for any 'discounts' in fulfilling all the terms and criteria for entry.

    The goal we have all agreed on in the EU is for Turkey to become a full member once it has fulfilled all the obligations toward the EU and its member-states. Talk of a 'special relationship' will reduce Europe's influence in Turkey and cloud its message, Droutsas added.

    At the same time, he underlined that Turkey's behaviour ran counter to every sense of good neighbour relations:

    "Its claims come into direct conflict with international law, Community rules and even common sense," the Greek minister underlined, citing as an example Turkey's recent obstruction of FRONTEX operations to curb illegal immigration in the Aegean.

    Regarding the course of action that Greece should adopt as a response, however, Droutsas noted that relations with Turkey could be "positive" and that there was a broad range of issues on which the two sides could cooperate and create "dividends of peace, stability and development". He emphasised, however, that this did not mean that Greece would back down from its positions.

    "We undertake initiatives and explore the opportunities for cooperation and rapprochement, identify and use the opportunities, create opportunities ourselves through initiatives and try to build relations of trust. We are picking up the thread where we left off in 2004. We are working for the benefit of both peoples and the entire region," Droutsas said.

    [03] PM: Tax bill a big reform and revolutionary change

    Prime minister George Papandreou called the new tax bill an immense reform and revolutionary change, addressing an Inner Cabinet meeting he chaired for discussion of the bill in its finalised form.

    Referring to the two-day EU Summit that opens Thursday in Brussels, Papandreou stated that if some members persisted against the creation of a European support mechanism, he would put forward the issue himself in cooperation with the Spanish EU presidency.

    Regarding the tax bill more specifically, Papandreou said it was typical of his government's commitment that it would not make "patches" but, rather, change the philosophyof the taxation system.

    He added that the bill "clearly bears the seal of our progressive perception, but also the sense of social justice that the citizens so need in the present difficult days".

    Papandreou further said that the government has no delusions that the tax bill solves all the problems of the taxation system automatically, adding that corrections will be needed along the way.

    He stressed that only with major structural changes will the country be safeguarded, and only those are able to guarantee that extroardinary measures will not be required again in the future, as they were this year.

    [04] Samaras: Greece not in danger of bankruptcy

    Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras on Tuesday underlined that he did not fear the prospect of Greece going bankrupt, while speaking at an international conference on "Greece at the Crossroads: Will reforms bring competitiveness and Investments?" organised by the International Herald Tribune. He underlined, however, that the country had to make immediate changes.

    What had gone bankrupt in Greece was not the country but the political model that had emerged in the last few decades, he added.

    "We are at a crossroads. The statist model has reached an end and the wager now is to convert the crisis into an opportunity," Samaras said, pointing out that Greece was a country with several untapped resources and competitive advantages.

    ND's president also referred to the discussion underway among Euro area countries and used the IHT conference to send a message to Germany, talking of the Agenda 2000 initiated by then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the fact that Germany might protest at the crisis and the falling price of the euro but had also increased its exports.

    He expressed concern about the harsh austerity programme adopted by the government, noting that the cuts were directed at those in an already marginal position and struck hardest at those who paid their taxes, not those who dodged them.

    "As a politician I fear social upheavals and outbursts, as an economist I fear that we are heading for an even deeper recession," he underlined and called on the government to adopt the developmental measures proposed by his party.

    Among the proposals made by the main opposition leader was the need for a small and flexible cabinet, with powers and authorities coinciding at all levels in order to cut down on bureaucracy and waste.

    He also called for the creation of incentives for civil servants to work harder and the gradual elimination of market distortions, such as cartels and oligopolies.

    Samaras particularly emphasised the necessity to stamp out tax evasion, noting that all past governments had failed at this task in the past because they made the mistake of increasing tax rates when the real target was to broaden the tax base. He counter-proposed a reduction in taxation rates and a reduction in the external costs for businesses.

    These proposals were for the period after the crisis, he clarified.

    [05] Samaras to address EPP session in Brussels

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras will arrive on Wednesday to attend a European People's Party (EPP) Summit meeting in the Belgian capital.

    Samaras has been invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the keynote speaker at the session, focusing on the problems faced by Greece, while presenting proposals that will lead the country out of the crisis within the framework of the eurozone.

    ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said Samaras is determined to utilise all available means in his possession to persuade Berlin to consent to finding a proper solution for Greece within the framework of the eurozone.

    Panagiotopoulos added that ND proposes that EU partners provide Greece with necessary guarantees to allow the country to borrow with favorable terms, or to offer financial assistance settled on a bilateral level, in order to avoid being in conflict with EMU prohibitions.

    As regards the recently tabled tax draft law, Panagiotopoulos described it as being "unfair and ineffective." He stated that if implemented, the domestic markets will dry up and problems caused by the recession will intensify.

    [06] SYRIZA's Tsipras on tax bill

    Opposition SYRIZA Parliamentary group president Alexis Tsipras stated on Tuesday that the government is deluded by thinking that its economic policy enjoys the people's consent.

    He said the government has only the consent of the right-wing parties and characterised the tax draft law as unfair because it accentuates income policy injustices.

    Tsipras rejected certain points of the tax draft law focusing on the taxation of natural entities, companies, offshore companies and severance pays.

    [07] Alternate FM briefs EU counterparts on economy, FRONTEX patrols

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)

    Greece has done its part and taken tough measures, and now seeks clear-cut political support from its EU partners, deputy foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas told a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, briefing his counterparts on the state of the Greek economy and the government's efforts.

    Greece will succeed on its own power, he said, noting that EU political support would translate into confidence on the part of the markets.

    He added that the entire Greek people, united, were waging the battle for this cause, stressing that the program adopted by the government has been acknowledged by all sides for its worth and clarity.

    The program, he continued, guarantees success in meeting the country's fiscal challenges, stressing that Greece has regained its credibility.

    On recent Turkish provocations in the Aegean, Droutsas briefed the EU ministers on the ongoing Turkish harassment of FRONTEX aircraft.

    He also said that in the past three days alone, more than 100 illegal immigrants were spotted in the region of Agathonissi island, adding that, at the same time that the FRONTEX helicopters were carrying out their normal patrols, they had to deal in tandem with radar harrasment as well as the presence of Turkish military planes in the area.

    [08] Turkish corvette sailing between Falkonera and Antimilos

    According to the National Defence General Staff, the Turkish corvette "Bafra" was sailing, on Tuesday evening, between Falkonera and Antimilos, in the Cycladic islands, in international waters and on a northward course, followed always by the Greek gunboat "Navmachos."

    The Turkish corevette had sailed from the gulf of Izmir on Monday. It initially followed a northward course in the central and northern Aegean and then it moved to the south along the Turkish coast.

    It then followed a westward course sailing in the southern Aegean. At noon it was located northwest of Santorini. The Greek gunboat has been watching the movements of the Turkish corvetee from the start.

    [09] Church of Greece hierarchy to meet over tax issue

    The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece's Holy Synod will convene a Church hierarchy meeting on Friday, amid continued reactions by the Church over new tax measures the government wants imposed on the Church of Greece's legal entities and foundations.

    On Tuesday, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece told reporters that the Church does not object to taxation on its assets, adding that "it always gave and will continue to do so." He pointed out, however, that the Church's position is that whatever tax rate should apply to net revenues.

    Responding to a question on whether he will meet with the prime minister, the Archbishop stated that it will be decided on Friday.

    Financial News

    [10] Olli Rehn spokesman on possible aid apparatus to Greece


    Amadeou Altafaj, the representative of Economy Commis-sioner Olli Rehn, stressed the need here on Tuesday for the clarification of the mechanism of possible aid to Greece for the lifting of the climate of uncertainty and instability.

    According to Altafaj, the European Union should be ready to implement the support mechanism towards Greece. "This, of course, does not mean that the mechanism will be activated automatically," the Commissioner's spokesman clarified, reminding that for the time being there is no request for aid from the Greek side.

    "In order for us to lift the climate of uncertainty and instability in the markets, it would be good for us to be ready, not only through political statements, but through a specific mechanism, that will be implemented and will be activated only if necessary," Altafaj said, adding that the clarification of the situation is not only to the benefit of Greece and its future ability to pay off its debt, but also to the benefit of stability in the eurozone as well.

    "Preserving the climate of uncertainty is never positive," he said characteristically.

    [11] ND proposals for social security system

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on Tuesday unveiled 12 proposals aimed at social security reform, mostly along the lines of ensuring the system's adequate financing, decent pensions for low-income earners, harmonising retirement ages and limiting early pensions only to so-called "sensitive groups" of the population.

    The proposals-axes were unveiled by ND sector head Yiannis Vroutsis, who declared his opposition to the raising of average retirement ages and his support for the voluntary extension of one's presence in the workforce.

    [12] Reppas on development of Crete

    Infrastructures, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas, speaking during a press conference in the city of Hania on Tuesday, presented the government's plan for the balanced development of the island of Crete in the infrastructures sector so that, as he said, vacuums and omissions lasting for years can be filled in and for the island to constitute a model of growth.

    Reppas, who was accompanied by Deputy Minister Yiannis Mangriotis and the ministry's secretary general Yiannis Economidis, referred to 20 basic projects concerning the island's northern road axis, sections of the southern road axis, as well as the vertical axes of the island. The projects concern a total of 108 kilometres.

    Reppas revealed that the projects will have the 2010-2-15 five-year period as a time horizon and will absorb the total amount of 750-800 million euros with three funding sources, that are the ESPA, public investments and the European Investments Bank from which a loan will be received with favourable terms, as he said.

    In parallel, "bridge" projects of the 3rd CSF will join the ESPA, for which the cost is estimated at 2.9 billion euros and concern the island's infrastructures in their entirety.

    [13] EBEA Chairman Mihalos addressed IHT conference

    Incentives and encouragement are necessary to attract investments in the tradition and advantages of a country, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) Chairman Constantine Mihalos stated on Tuesday, addressing an International Herald Tribune (IHT) international business conference in Athens titled "Greece at the Crossroads: Will reforms bring competitiveness and Investments?"

    Mihalos underlined that "a change of mentality is necessary in order to see entrepreneurship and investments as a source of development, employment and prosperity and not as an enemy of society." He stressed that "Greece for decades has adopted a model of development that is far from these preconditions and has not adopted structural changes."

    The EBEA Chairman stated that "investors are being kept away by the large number of laws, the agencies with overlapping authority, claims, court appeals and bureaucracy," adding that "the cautiousness of foreign investors and tourists is understandable."

    Greater development will result in real fiscal reform, he said, pointing out that "development will come only through bold and decisive structural reforms that will allow us to utilize in practice our country's advantages and potential."

    Mihalos stated that the drastic cuts in public spending are necessary but putting the burden on households and businesses will only lead to a prolonged and deep recession. He added that "immediate development measures are needed; mostly reforms that will free the Greek economy from the bonds of low competitiveness."

    [14] LAOS' Karatzaferis met with EBEA, BEA chambers

    Opposition Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) President George Karatzaferis had separate meetings at his party's offices on Tuesday with the board members of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) and the Athens Chamber of Small and Medium Sized Industries (BEA).

    After meeting with the BEA board, Karatzaferis stated that they presented to him "interesting proposals that can be implemented immediately, contributing more to the state than the measures taken by the government."

    Referring to the tax draft law, Karatzaferis stated that "the government is not moving in the right direction," underlining that "the market and the banks are being dried out and the risks increase instead of decreasing."

    In statement he made earlier after meeting with the EBEA board, Karatzaferis underlined that "we should reach a common decision on what can be the best path to follow" and characterized the chambers as the healthiest bodies in the country. He added that he listened to their suggestions and maintained that they can materialize within a framework that will lead the country to a better future.

    Karatzaferis will meet in Parliament on Wednesday with PASOK former Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

    [15] INKA sharply criticises higher taxes on goods, fuel

    The New Consumers Institute (New INKA) on Tuesday criticised the higher indirect taxation and wage cuts imposed by the Greek government, saying in an announcement that the measures lowered the standard of living to such an extent that survival was now a struggle for many.

    It was particularly critical of the increased taxation on fuel, saying it placed Greece among the countries with the highest prices for fuel in the world while making problems even worse for consumers, with continued flagrant price-gouging and fuel scams at their expense.

    "The self-evident result of the government's measures, accompanied by the lack of legislation and effective measures to control over-pricing, is a sharp rise in prices that is observed and still not accurately recorded by the statistical services of the country," INKA claims.

    New INKA called for the abolition or reduction of VAT on basic goods and said that consumers were convinced that the only solution for the country was a restructuring of production in the country's economy - an issue not tackled by the tax bill.

    The consumer group said that this came to "add insult to injury" for consumers, since it also raised direct taxation "in favour of an unreliable state and its creditors".

    [16] Bank of Greece reports slightly higher 2009 results

    Bank of Greece on Tuesday reported net profits of 228.2 million euros last year, from 225.1 million euros in 2008, for an increase of 1.4 pct, and said a relatively low growth of net profits -despite a 41.3 pct rise in net income and an 1.7 pct decline in personnel spending- reflecting higher provisions. The central bank will seek shareholders approval to a plan to pay a 2.40 euros per share dividend to shareholders.

    Net income totaled 1.139 billion euros last year, from 806.2 million euros in 2008, with expenses up 56.8 pct to 911.3 million euros in the same year.

    Provisions jumped to 1.953 billion euros, up 472.2 million euros in the year, while amortizations jumped 115 percent to 59.8 million euros. Other operating expenses, however, fell 1.4 pct to 379.3 million euros.

    [17] Aegean Airlines reports lower 2009 results

    Aegean Airlines on Tuesday said 2009 sales grew 2.0 pct from 2008 to 622.7 million euros, but operating pre-tax, interest, amortization and aircraft leasing expenses (EBITDAR) fell 6.0 pc to 95.9 million euros and net after tax profits dropped 22 pct to 23 million euros last year, from 29.5 million euros in 2008.

    The airline company said revenues rose slightly last year despite adverse economic conditions, reflecting the expansion of its international flight schedule with the additional of regular flights from Athens to Paris, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona, Venice, Istanbul, Vienna and Madrid.

    Aegean Airlines said its passenger traffic totaled 6.6 million passengers, up 10 pct from 2008, of which 3.8 million were domestic passengers (up 2.0 pc) and the remaining 2.8 million were international flight passengers (up 22 pct).

    [18] Alapis group reports improved 2009 results

    Alapis Group on Tuesday reported an 8.5-pct increase in its consolidated turnover to 1.232 billion euros last year, up from 1.136 billion euros in 2008, reflecting mainly the integration of two new companies in the group (Gerolymatos and Medimec).

    Consolidated pre-tax, interest and amortisation earnings (EBITDA) jumped 67.8 pct to 308.1 million euros in 2009, up from 183.6 million euros in 2008, while EBITDA margin jumped to 25 pct from 16.2 pct over the same period.

    EBITDA from continuing activities rose 25.6 pct to 346.8 million euros, while net after tax and minorities earnings rose slightly (1.8 pct) to 52.9 million euros last year from 51.9 million euros in 2008.

    Alapis group said the board will seek shareholders approval to a play to pay a 0.006 euros per share dividend to shareholders (down from 0.011 euros in 2008).

    [19] ATEbank reports 401.6-mln-euro loss in 2009

    ATEbank on Tuesday announced pre-tax losses of 419.5 million euros last year, after pre-tax earnings of 15.4 million euros in 2008 and said pre-provision operating earnings jumped 97.8 pct to 408.4 million euros reflecting a 22.3 pct increase in net revenues from main activities.

    The bank said it has significantly raised bad debt provisions to 825.3 million euros, a move that led the bank to report after minorities losses of 401.5 million euros last year, from profits of 27.8 million euros in 2008.

    Theodore Pantalakis, ATEbank's governor, commenting on the results said the bank has placed as top priority the strengthening of its balance sheet through a significant increase in provisions amid a difficult international and domestic economic environment.

    ATEbank will continue its efforts to preserve and constantly improving the quality of its balance sheet focusing on the orgranizational and operating upgrading of the bank and the group's companies, he said.

    [20] Eurobank Properties to pay 0.55-euro dividend

    Eurobank Properties announced that an extraordinary general shareholders' meeting on March 22 approved a board plan to pay a 0.55-euro per share dividend to shareholders.

    The company has already paid a 0.15-euro per share pre-dividend to shareholders in December 2009. Its shares will be traded at the Athens Stock Exchange ex-dividend as of Tuesday March 30.

    [21] Kri-Kri SA reports higher 2009 results

    Kri-Kri, a Greek-listed dairy industry, on Tuesday reported a 5.6-pct increase in its consolidated pre-tax earnings to 3.7 million euros and said consolidated turnover rose 1.3 pct to 40.254 million euros in 2009.

    EBITDA rose 9.2 pct to 5.877 million euros last year, while net after profits - accounting the owners of the parent company - totaled 3.267 million euros, up 27 pct from 2008.

    Parent turnover rose slightly to 38.678 million euros in 2009, from 38.172 million in 2008, while pre-tax profits rose to 3.725 million euros from 3.502 million euros, over the same period, respectively.

    The board said it would seek shareholders' approval to skip its dividend payment for the year.

    [22] Hotel chamber: Tourist arrivals to remain at last year's levels

    This year's tourism arrivals are expected at the same level as last year's but at the same time tourist sector revenues are expected to be slightly down, Hellenic Chamber of Hotels president Giorgos Tsakiris predicted on Tuesday.

    Speaking at a press conference, he called on all those involved in the tourism sector to join forces in an effort to reverse the negative picture.

    On their part, Greek hotel owners have responded to the sector pleas for a 5-pct reduction in their prices, which in certain cases is larger than 15 pct, according to the chamber.

    In an effort to boost tourist arrivals in Athens, the chamber again touched on the issue of cabotage, requesting the lifting of restrictions still in effect concerning the scheduling of cruises from Greek seaports (Piraeus in particular) suggesting that Piraeus be turned into a cruise ship hub.

    As a result of such a move, the annual revenues are estimated to top the 500-million-euro mark with the prospect to exceed 1 billion euros.

    [23] Stocks end 1.83% higher

    Stocks ended with strong gains in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, with the composite index of the market rising 1.83 pct to end at 2,047.03 points. Turnover was a low 138.388 million euros.

    The FTSE 20 index jumped 2.09 pct, the FTSE 40 index rose 1.07 pct and the FTSE 80 index ended 1.75 pct higher. The Travel (7.61 pct) and Raw Materials (5.27 pct) sectors scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Telecoms (0.33 pct) was the only sector to end lower.

    Klonatex (14.29 pct), Envitec (9.55 pct), Interinvest (9.09 pct), OPAP (8.71 pct) and Imperio (8.70 pct) were top gainers, while Eurobrokers (17.53 pct), Akritas (9.09 pct) and Biokarpet (7.32 pct) were top losers. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 126 to 47 with another 48 issues unchanged.

    Sector indices ended as follows:

    Insurance: +2.18%

    Industrials: +1.61%

    Commercial: +1.51%

    Construction: +3.10%

    Media: +2.50%

    Oil & Gas: +0.76%

    Personal & Household: +1.01%

    Raw Materials: +5.27%

    Travel & Leisure: +7.61%

    Technology: +2.36%

    Telecoms: -0.33%

    Banks: +1.71%

    Food & Beverages: +0.15%

    Health: +1.08%

    Utilities: +0.92%

    Chemicals: +3.42%

    Financial Services: +0.92%

    The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Coca Cola and Alpha Bank.

    Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:

    Alpha Bank: 6.82

    ATEbank: 1.57

    Public Power Corp (PPC): 14.00

    HBC Coca Cola: 20.02

    Hellenic Petroleum: 8.38

    National Bank of Greece: 14.82

    EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.35

    Intralot: 3.35

    OPAP: 16.48

    OTE: 9.17

    Bank of Piraeus: 6.30

    Titan: 18.29

    [24] Greek bond market closing report

    The yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds shrank to 327 basis points on Tuesday, from 339 bps on Monday, in the Greek electronic secondary bond market, with the Greek bond yielding 6.32 pct and the German Bund 3.05 pct. Turnover in the market was a hefty 2.509 billion euros, of which 1.210 billion were buy orders and the remaining 1.299 billion euros were sell orders. The five-year benchmark bond (August 20, 2015) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover 1.002 billion euros.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.

    [25] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -0.96 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Tuesday, with turnover a low 55.10 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,764 contracts worth 43.710 million euros, with 27,455 open positions in the market.

    Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,360 contracts worth 11.390 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (2,513), followed by Eurobank (894), MIG (468), Piraeus Bank (1,187), Hellenic Bottling (1,571), Alpha Bank (1,017), Mytilineos (477) and ATEbank (358).

    [26] Foreign Exchange rates - Wednesday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.362

    Pound sterling 0.907

    Danish kroner 7.5

    Swedish kroner 9.806

    Japanese yen 123.14

    Swiss franc 1.443

    Norwegian kroner 8.106

    Canadian dollar 1.388

    Australian dollar 1.486

    General News

    [27] Melina Mercouri award for cultural capitals of Europe


    European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced here on Tuesday the creation of an award amounting to 1.5 million euros titled "Melina Mercouri award", which will be given every year to the cultural capitals of Europe.

    "All started in 1985 in Athens, the craddle of European mythology under the auspices of (then culture minister) Melina Mercouri. She contributed decisively with her determination to the success of the first cultural capital of Europe. For this reason we decided to honour her name, through the new financing apparatus for the cultural capitals," Barroso said.

    The initiative on the cultural capitals of Europe began in 1984 from former French culture minister Jack Lang in cooperation with his then counterpart Melina Mercouri.

    [28] City of Athens to join 'Earth Hour' campaign

    Ôhe City of Athens is calling on all residents to participate in the global campaign "Earth Hour 2010" by switching off their lights for one hour on Saturday, March 27, at 20:30.

    Earth Hour is an awareness-raising effort concerning climate change and energy efficiency.

    Athens is once again actively participating in the international effort and, on the evening of March 27 will switch off lights at 20:30 for one hour at the following locations:

    Lycabettus Hill

    City Hall on Kotzia Sq.

    City of Athens administrative building on Liossion St.

    All municipal buildings

    Technopolis smokestacks

    [29] Costume exhibition opens at Benaki Museum

    An exhibition on the fashions adopted by high society in Greece and abroad, especially during the '50s, '60s and '70s, has opened its doors at the Benaki Museum on Pireos Street in Athens on Tuesday. The costumes on display are from the collection of the 'Vassilios Papantoniou' Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation and the exhibition was organised in the hope of generating interest in the foundation of a museum dedicated to clothing and apparel in Greece.

    This is reflected in the title of the exhibition (To Dress: Towards a Costume Culture Museum). The idea for the project belongs to the head of the Peloponnesian Foundation Ioanna Papantoniou, who was also behind the 2004 exhibition 'Folds and Pleats' that examined the links between ancient clothing and present-day fashions.

    The costume collection on display is comprised of a wide range of museum-grade clothing from the 18th to the 21st century, including masterpieces by designers/couturiers known the world over, such as Mariano Fortuny, Jeanne Lanvin, Christian Dior, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Issey Miyake, and others, as well as Greek designers who are internationally renowned, such as Yiannis Evangelides, Jean Dessès, James Galanos, Yiannis Tseklenis, Sophia Kokosalaki and others.

    The exhibition will run until May 23 and will also include an international conference on costume on April 9-11 entitled "To Dress: Historical, sociological and methodological approaches".

    [30] The riparian forest of Apollonia

    The riparian forest of Apollonia, on the southern bank of Lake Volvi, is one of the very few hydrophilous lakeside forests still existing in Europe, and is the only area in Greece to host mixed colonies of grey herons (Ardea cinerea) and white storks (Ciconia ciconia) in a unique cohabitation in the heart of the forest.

    Apollonia is an endangered forest today given that, in the past, it extended over 3 million sq. meters, but heavy tree-cutting for expansion of cultivated land has dramatically shrunk the forest to just 150,000 sq. meters today.

    The Apollonia is a forest of unique ecological value due to its wide variety of flora and fauna, and also its extremely rare Alnopopuletum phytosociety consisting of plane trees, matchwood trees, silver poplars, willow trees and osier willows growing together in a single forest.

    [31] Book presentation at Istanbul Archaeological Museum

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA/A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said at the Archaeological Museum here on Tuesday that "we congratulate cooperation between Greece and Turkey for the maintenance of the Byzantine monuments. For us Christians, Agia Sofia is the Great Church."

    He was speaking during the presentation of the book "Greek contribution to the maintenance of Agia Sofia" by Athens Polytechnic professor Tonia Moropoulou.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch praised the efforts being made lately for the maintenance of the city's Byzantine heritage, saying that "the interest that it is showing for the maintenance of the Byzantine monuments is in the honour of Turkish society."

    [32] Illegal migrant arrests, contraband cigarettes seized in NW Greece

    Two Albanian nationals were arrested in Thesprotia prefecture, extreme northwest Greece, on Tuesday on migrant smuggling chargers after authorities discovered three illegals in a stolen car driven by one of the suspects. Police also seized a loaded handgun found in the possession of the alleged migrant smugglers.

    Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident also in Thesprotia, an Albanian national was apprehended when police found three illegal migrants from Albania in his vehicle.

    Further east in Ioannina prefecture, a local man was arrested for transporting two illegal migrants from Albania hidden in his truck.

    A total of 82 Albanian illegal migrants were detained in the past 24 hours across the province of Epirus and were repatriated to their country via the Kakavia border station on the Greek-Albanian frontier, authorities said.

    Finally, in a separate incident, port of Igoumenitsa officials confiscated a total of 165,950 packs of contraband cigarettes hidden in a truck driven by a 46-year-old Greek man, who was arrested. The contraband cargo was found during an inspection of the truck, which was ready to board an Italy-bound ferryboat.

    [33] Three charged for Internet scam

    The Greek electronic crimes squad on Tuesday announced that it had drawn up charges against three foreign nationals for an Internet scam that several unsuspecting Greeks had fallen for, handing over significant amounts of money.

    The three operated by sending e-mails to random recipients, who were told that they had won the sum of two million dollars in an international lottery but could only receive their supposed winnings if they sent a cheque to cover either administrative costs or, in some cases, taxation. These cheques were to be made payable to individuals living abroad and the sums demanded ranged from a few hundred euros to a few thousand.

    Authorities were alerted to the scam by a private citizen that received one these e-mails and reported it to police. The specific e-mail was allegedly sent by the United Kingdom tax office and demanded that the recipient deposit 3,500 dollars in tax in order to receive the two million dollars of supposed lottery winnings.

    One of the three con-artists even offered to hand over the "winning cheque" in person as soon as the "tax" had been paid. This suspect was arrested, while his accomplices are now being sought via Interpol.

    Authorities are now using the bank account information supplied and Interpol resources to determine the size of the scam and how many people may have fallen victim to it in Greece and elsewhere in the world.

    The man arrested has appeared before a public prosecutor and is due to testify before an examining magistrate.

    [34] Suspension of building permits around Plato's Academy area in Athens

    The environment ministry on Tuesay announced the one-year suspension of all building permits in the region around the Plato's Academy archaeological grove, which lies north of the Elaionas region within the Athens municipality, based on a 2009 recommendation made by the City of Athens municipal council.

    In an announcement, the ministry said that the aim of the measure was to revise the local town plan drawn up for the improvement and proper organisation of an important region for central Athens, such as Plato's Academy. The area in question occupies roughly 55 blocks.

    [35] RAF plane crashes on Crete, pilot safe

    A British Royal Air Force 'Hawk' aircraft in the Red Arrows aerobatic squadron crashed to earth in the outskirts of Kasteli air strip on the Greek island of Crete just before 14:00 on Tuesday, possibly due to engine failure or a mid-air collision. The pilot managed to bail out to safety but the plane was destroyed on impact, the Greek Air Force General Staff announced.

    The plane was part of a formation of nine aircraft that were in the air at the time. The other eight planes in the formation have landed safely at Iraklion airport on Crete. The RAF squadron was stopping over at Kasteli air strip and is scheduled to stay in Greece until March 31 for a flight training programme.

    [36] Small plane makes emergency landing

    A private aircraft, identified as a twin-propeller Piper PA-44 "Seminole", made an emergency landing on Tuesday afternoon at the Megara airstrip, west of Athens, after its landing gear reportedly failed.

    No one on board was injured, according to an army general staff press release.

    Weather Forecast

    [37] Cloudy, rainy on Wednesday

    Cloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Wednesday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 4C and 19C. Cloudy with periodical rainfall in Athens, with northerly 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 10C to 19C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 15C.

    [38] The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The increase in the Greek spreads, the economy and the Prime Minister George Papandreou's plea to opposition parties for consensus during Monday's debate in parliament on the Stability and Development plan, dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Conditions change for disability pensions, too".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras in parliament: "I have given support in order for Greece to avoid the worse".

    AVGHI: "Plebeians in the front and patricians in the rear".

    AVRIANI: "Cyprus banks loaded with Greeks' money - The bankruptcy rumour sends capital out of Greece".

    ELEFTHEROS : "Ministers compete for the title of the most unsuccessful - Unbelievable turmoil in government ahead of the hour of the major crisis".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "ND leader gives clear message - 'We will not allow Greece to go bankrupt' - He rejects IMF and insists on a European solution".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "'Alliance of the willing' for help - EU Summit: Towards a decision for a support mechanism".

    ESTIA: "The new tax bill brings more bureaucracy".

    ETHNOS: "Last-minute patches - They are rewriting amendments of the new tax bill".

    IMERISSIA: "In the vise of the spreads and the EU".

    KATHIMERINI: "The jabbering hinders the borrowing".

    LOGOS: "Speculations of Greece exiting the eurozone are preposterous".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Prime Minister asks for support ahead of the new battle - Papandreou's plea to parliamentary parties".

    NIKI: "The Church of Greece 'excommunicates' the crisis and refuses to pay taxes".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Public Health services insufficient".

    TA NEA: "Euro-axis against Merkel - Front for Greece's support in markets".

    TO VIMA: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel blackmails Greece and Europe".

    VRADYNI: "Samaras sternly criticised the government on the economy - You're giving ground for social outburst".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [39] FM discusses Cyprus issue with EU High Representative


    Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou has held a meeting with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security

    Policy Kathrine Ashton, with whom he discussed the Cyprus problem and other EU issues.

    During the meeting, which took place on the sidelines of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, Kyprianou briefed the EU official on recent developments regarding the Cyprus issue, as well as on his recent tour to the Gulf states.

    Ashton informed the Cypriot Minister about her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last week.

    The EU ministers discussed at the Council ways to further enhance EU-Ukraine relations. In his intervention, Kyprianou said that the constructive cooperation with the new government of the Ukraine must continue, adding that the positive message sent by the new government regarding its cooperation with the EU must be encouraged.

    The EU, he said, must not exert pressure on the Ukraine, adding that the country must not be put in the difficult position to have to choose between the EU and Russia.

    During the Council meeting, the EU Ministers decided to give Ashton the mandate to offer significant aid during the international conference of donors to Haiti, to be held in New York on 31 March, with a clear mandate to make a significant offer of aid.

    The Council also examined the situation in the Middle East, in particular during a working lunch with the Quartet Representative Tony Blair, when Ashton also briefed the EU-27 about her recent tour of the region.

    Ashton condemned developments on the ground, which she said are affecting the chances of peace talks being resumed. She expressed her ''deep sorrow" for the loss of lives, particularly in the West Bank, and said the incidents that have occurred in the area should be investigated.

    The representatives of the European governments also discussed the situation in Chile, and received information from the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva, who recently visited the country.

    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to solve the Cyprus problem.

    [40] Archbishop's visit to occupied monastery to signal start of restoration work


    Thirty six years after the Turkish invasion, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos ÉÉ visited on Monday the holy monastery of Apostle Andreas, located in the Karpass Peninsula, on the northeastern tip of the island.

    Visibly moved, the Archbishop entered the Monastery and together with Father Zacharia, who officiates church services at this holy site, expressed hope that renovation work can start the soonest possible.

    Karpass Bishop Christoforos gave a handmade icon of Apostle Andreas to the Archbishop to remember the visit, adding "we hope that your visit will signal the start of restoration work at the monastery, which would avert total collapse and that your trip will mark the reunification of the island, so that we can officiate services at our churches and see Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live united".

    Archbishop Chrysostomos said he wished the monastery will be restored the soonest possible "to become a real religious and spiritual haven".

    He said he wished to see the revival of the monastery, which is the most sacred pilgrimage site in Cyprus, and that "better days will come for everybody. It is up to us, if we work together, I am sure that the day of reunification will come soon for Greeks and Turks" in Cyprus.

    The Archbishop said "our region wants peace and we should all contribute to peace, which is also God's wish".

    He thanked the self-styled minister of tourism in the Turkish occupied north, Ersan Saner, who was waiting for him at the monastery and entered the sacred area together with the Archbishop. "He is responsible for monuments. I hope that during his term in office, the monuments will be restored for the sake of history, Greeks and Turks and humanity, because humanity leaves behind its monuments which belong to the civilized world", Archbishop Chrysostomos said.

    On his part, Saner said he is making efforts for the restoration and revival of the monastery for the benefit of all and even if the monuments are in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus, "they belong to humanity".

    He said "we are ready for any cooperation not only for mosques and churches but also to protect the architectural monuments of the world".

    Speaking to a group of enclaved Greek Cypriots (living in occupied Cyprus), Archbishop Chrysostomos said he had sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan calling for the restoration of all occupied churches. He also said that the Church wants to develop relations which could help the political leadership solve the Cyprus problem "because our concern is to find the correct solution so that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can live together happy".

    This is the first time the Archbishop had crossed into the occupied areas since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The Archbishop, accompanied by the bishop of Karpasia Christoforos, crossed the dividing line from Saint Dometios crossing point without stopping for any ''formalities''. During his stay in the occupied areas, his car was escorted by a vehicle of the so-called police of the occupation regime.

    Chrysostomos' first stop was the Holy Monastery of Apostle Varnavas, where he visited the tomb of Varnavas, the founder of the autocephalous Church of Cyprus. He expressed hope for the speedy reunification of the island.

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